PTO Should Take a Victory Lap

posted by in Intellectual Property October 2, 2015
Oct 02

The United States Patent and Trade Office (PTO) just released their “Study and Report on the Implementation of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA).” They deserve a round of applause for their hard work implementing this landmark piece of legislation.

Signed into law in 2011, the AIA was the first major change to the Patent System in 50 years. When it was enacted, we believed that it would modernize our laws to take into account the global nature of our patent system. We hoped it would provide clarity and better certainty for both patent owners and those looking to manufacture or provide new services. Because of the work by the PTO in implementing this legislation, both have occurred.

Under the exceptional leadership of Director Lee, the PTO is doing a commendable job of implementing the AIA. They beat virtually every deadline set by the legislation and they did so in an impressive manner. This included transitioning from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” system and setting up three brand new patent review programs to more efficiently challenge the validity of patents. The Report highlights the steps the PTO has taken to implement the law and provides recommendations to Congress on how to further improve or tweak the legislation to help the PTO fulfill its mission. Most notably, the PTO recommends that Congress:

  • should not extend the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents (pgs 37-39) and
  • should only make minor, clarifying changes to the Inter Partes Review system (pgs 33-35).

BSA commends the PTO on this report; beyond that, BSA commends the PTO for all of their hard work taking a complicated piece of legislation and putting it into practice.

The Web Is Worldwide — Shouldn’t Privacy Protections Be Global as Well?

posted by in Data, Privacy September 16, 2015
Sep 16

Earlier today I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a critical issue that affects anyone who has ever sent an email. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), designed to prevent unauthorized government access to private electronic communications, is sorely in need of an update.

We are generating an enormous amount of data every day — just think: over 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years — but the policy environment tied to data services has not kept pace with this technological progress. The protections for our 21st-century world of software and data services are still mired in outdated 20th-century law.

ECPA was enacted in 1986; surely our technology laws should be more current than what was enacted during the year of the Iran-Contra Affair. Because of this gap, consumers, businesses and law enforcement all lack sufficient clarity and predictability about the regulations and laws that govern the gathering, storing, sharing, and beneficial use of data.

On behalf of members of BSA | The Software Alliance and the software industry as a whole, I urged Congress this morning to support efforts to update ECPA by: 1) protecting email communications from government intrusion without a warrant; and 2) providing clarity to technology companies on their legal obligations to law enforcement, so that providers can be transparent about how they treat customers’ information. This is not just a domestic concern. I also asked Congress to address emerging issues, specifically those related to demands for data held in one country by law enforcement agencies of another country. Just as US police can’t simply fly to another country and knock down a suspect’s door to raid their home, their jurisdiction online must be respectful of borders as well. Barging into a foreign data center would be a major invasion of that country’s sovereignty. Imagine the uproar if foreign police tried to a similar move in the United States.

It’s encouraging to see movement on this important issue by way of much-needed conversations taking place, and I’m honored to be a part of the discussion. You can read my full testimony here.

A Healthy Challenge to Congress: BSA’s Congressional 2015 Data Agenda

posted by in Data September 15, 2015
Sep 15

An ever growing abundance of data, ever improving data software driven services, and the increasingly relied upon data that comes from software represent an important frontier in our lives today, and in our digital economy as a whole. The abundance of data is leading to life-saving breakthroughs in health, farmers producing crops at lower prices, and families with busy schedules staying connected—all by leveraging data.

Throughout history, any time new technologies challenge and change how we think and behave, policymakers are challenged with ensuring these technologies fully deliver on their potential. This is very much the case today, as we find ways to best embrace the promise of a burst of data services. Just think: more than 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years. We create an enormous amount of data every day – but the policy environment tied to data services is lagging. Because of this challenge, consumers, businesses and law enforcement today all lack sufficient clarity and predictability about the rules and laws that govern the gathering, storing, sharing, and positive uses of data.

As the data services sector continues its rapid growth, crucial questions have emerged related to clear laws over issues like cybersecurity, trade, government access, and cross-border data flows. These questions only seem to grow as time passes, and each has global implications. How can the beneficial potential of data be realized, and how can the best decisions be reached, if we don’t have clear rules to play by?

Some promising movement is beginning to occur: In June of this year, Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority, supported by BSA | The Software Alliance. This important legislation ensures that for the first time any new trade agreement must include strong, clear, enforceable rules to ensure the free global flow of data. And this past spring, Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, also supported by BSA, to restrict the bulk collection of data and help define the appropriate balance between national security and privacy. These legislative wins are significant steps forward – yet much remains to be done.

BSA’s 2015 Data Agenda is a set of achievable goals for Congress during its current session.  Our Data Agenda includes five well within our grasp legislative efforts related to software and data services, each of which will have a positive effect on a thriving digital economy.  Lawmakers should act now to build a healthy policy environment around data services – one which better fits our modern reality and actual needs in a digital economy.

These five legislative areas involve Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) reform; information-sharing; the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act; Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) modernization; and the Judicial Redress Act. Do these five areas cover everything on the data services landscape? No. But collectively they represent the healthiest down payment yet when it comes to establishing clear laws and regulations which will unleash the many good things the data economy to will bring to each one of us as well our country.

BSA’s 2015 Data Agenda gives our nation and our Congress the opportunity to again show the world a version of innovative leadership that truly breaks new ground. As countries like the United Kingdom, Brazil, and China develop their data policies, the U.S. can offer a model that respects rule of law and individual rights. We can do it. This can happen.

As Congress begins its push for legislation this fall, we hope they look to BSA’s Congressional 2015 Data Agenda as one agenda that makes all the sense in the world.

How Software Will Transform Global Society: Lifting the Developing World

posted by in Data, Global Markets, Industry September 14, 2015
Sep 14

Enormous changes enabled by software will help millions of people in the developing world live healthier lives, bring new ideas to life, and participate in the global economy.

Last year, the World Economic Forum established the Global Agenda Council (GAC) on the Future of Software and Society. Our mission is to help society navigate the huge societal shifts coming from software technology, both positive and negative. As part of that effort, in March, we conducted a survey to gather views and provoke discussion on some of the transformations occurring in society as a result of software. We asked a wide range of entrepreneurs, experts, and government officials for their views on when the adoption rate of specific technologies will reach a point that results in major societal impacts–everything from implantable mobile phones to robotic pharmacists to cities with no traffic lights. One outcome that emerged was exciting in its ability to directly impact millions of lives today: the potential of software to empower the developing world.

As chair of the GAC, I had the privilege to work with a diverse team of technology experts to identify six of the biggest software-driven technology trends that are shaping our society: ubiquitous computing, wearable technology, artificial intelligence, data analytics, blockchain, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing.

Taking just one of these trends, ubiquitous computing, access to the Internet helps people seek and share information, freely express ideas, and develop and maintain relationships almost anywhere in the world. Although just 43% of the world’s population is connected to the Internet today, the combination of increasing computing power on software-powered smartphones and decreasing connectivity costs is driving exponential growth in Internet access, providing a helping hand for entrepreneurs in developing countries. A rural Ugandan farmer with a smartphone can use cloud infrastructure to tap new opportunities to get her products to market. Software enables farmers to share best practices, find market prices and weather updates, and even buy and sell cattle online.

The ability to use software to connect and better leverage data for a healthier tomorrow is remarkable. In Kenya, mobile data is being used to identify malaria infection patterns and pinpoint hotspots that guide government eradication efforts.

3D printing software is also helping transform the developing world. Researchers are engineering ways to create low cost, 3D printed farming equipment for farmers in the developing world. These tools, ranging from simple chicken feeders to complex water quality testing devices, give farmers the ability to grow their businesses at a lower cost. 3D printing also has incredible potential in the field of human health. We are already seeing great medical advances from 3D printing. Today, doctors in Africa are 3D printing personalized prosthetics for amputees, vastly increasing quality of life.

The predictions outlined in this report point to a future with more opportunities for more people. Together, we can help navigate the great changes to come from software.

To read the entire “Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact” report, click here.

Today’s Technology, Yesterday’s Laws: U.S. Aims to Undermine Email Privacy

posted by in Data, Industry, Privacy September 9, 2015
Sep 09

The average email user doesn’t think a whole lot about how it is they can access their communications on a range of devices from almost anywhere on earth. They point. They click. They read. To quote the late Steve Jobs, for users, “it just works.”

The simplicity of email is built on three crucial ingredients: software, data, and trust. Software powers the global network that enables the system, and the data comes from users who rely on the Internet to power their communications and so much more. Those users supply the third ingredient: they must trust that when they log on, they will be able to access that personal information. And they must trust the technology and the services to keep their information safe and secure from prying eyes.

Unfortunately, while the potent mixture of software and data promise any number of incredible advancements in the years to come, U.S. government efforts on access to data are undermining that trust.

The consequences of this are real. Already, amid the ongoing international surveillance revelations, European governments and businesses are openly questioning the trustworthiness of U.S. technology companies. The German government, for example, has crafted procurement rules that will bar many U.S. companies from providing software solutions and services to the state. And the German government is not stopping there. They are sending signals to the private sector that industry should follow regulators’ lead.

Unfortunately, this attack on digital trust is worsening. A case being argued in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York this week has the potential to set a significant precedent. In that case, the Department of Justice is seeking to force Microsoft to turn over the contents of one customer’s email inbox. In the United States, such a demand requires a warrant, and the Department of Justice has successfully obtained a warrant for the information Microsoft holds here in the United States.

The problem in this case is this: Microsoft’s customer is likely in the vicinity of the company’s Dublin datacenter—where the data is stored—and which Irish law governs. In the same way that U.S. police can’t simply fly to Ireland and knock down a suspect’s door to raid their home, their jurisdiction online must be respectful of borders as well. Barging into an Irish data center, however it’s done, would be an incredible invasion of Irish sovereignty. And imagine the uproar if foreign police tried such a move in the United States.

Instead, through a long-standing and well-developed process, many countries have developed rules for obtaining access to information that is held overseas.  Those rules are embodied in Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, or MLATs, and the United States even has an MLAT with Ireland. The Irish government has filed a brief in the 2nd Circuit case letting the court know that, had the Justice Department used the MLAT process, they would already have the information that they will be in court this week to seek.

Rather than using that MLAT process, however, the Justice Department is misguidedly arguing that a users’ email belongs not to the user – but to the email provider. This flies in the face of what digital customers the world over believe about owning their own online files and communications, and it runs contrary to generations of understanding about the privacy of our papers and letters.

Consider the United States Postal Service: would the Justice Department ever try to argue that the contents of your envelopes no longer belong to you once they are dropped in the mail?  They wouldn’t, and that is the bedrock of the years of trust between customers and the companies and institutions we all rely on to deliver our communications.

Rather than taking this battle to the courts, we urge the Justice Department to work with governments and industry around the world to craft a forward-looking system to address these questions. The end goal of that effort should be a system of rules that both preserves the rule of law and applies effectively across borders. If the United States does not take a lead in guiding this process, we will be left instead with countries racing to establish a system with the fewest protections possible. Such a regime would neither respect international sovereignty nor fundamental human rights or online privacy. As the digital economy continues to grow, our world will only continue to shrink. Already some online crime is global. The tools that law enforcement uses to investigate and prosecute such crime should be global as well.

Our Congress should pay particular attention to MLAT modernization as well. While the Department of Justice ties logic in knots in order to demand quick access to information held overseas, our current system is frustrating international investigations at the same time. Because much of the world’s data is held by U.S. companies on U.S. servers, international investigators must go through the Justice Department to gain access to it. A lack of dedicated staff here, though, has led to an unacceptably long backlog of foreign requests. The long wait that other governments must endure for digital evidence is leading those governments to demand that companies hold their citizens’ data within their borders. This is not only costly and inefficient, but it will lead to even more cases like Microsoft’s situation in Ireland. The Justice Department is creating problems for itself down the road by trying to take a legal shortcut today.

Finally, Congress must act to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the other outdated electronic privacy laws in the United States. ECPA was a forward-looking law when it was passed back in 1986, but few could have foreseen the amazing technological evolution since then. And while thirty years may not be that long in legal terms, consider this: In software terms, 1986 was the era of Windows 1.0, the 12-pound IBM laptop, and just 2,000 global Internet connections.

More than opportunity awaits by modernizing our laws and regulations to better fit our modern digital age. It must be considered an obligation. The outcome of the September 9 Court of Appeals case will make history, either way. That outcome should favor users’ trust.

The Voices of Girls Who Code

posted by in Industry August 21, 2015
Aug 21

BSA | The Software Alliance sponsored the first-ever Washington, DC Girls Who Code summer immersion program. Here, several of the students share journal entries about their experiences.

BSA Office photo with Victoria Espinel

“Throughout my time here at Girls Who Code we’ve learned a lot of skills that I can take into the future. I think my favorite skill, other than the coding, has to be learning about how to take advantage of the mentorship opportunities they presented to us. From encouraging everyone to ask important questions to making our very first LinkedIn accounts, Girls Who Code has taught us not only how to be good coders, but good leaders too.”


“Each person that came in to speak to us has been an absolute blessing to me and definitely inspired me to be a better version of myself. They made me realize that a woman can also be great and hold a major position. Throughout this summer I saw a diverse group of speakers which meant everything to me because that informs me that, I can be something great regardless of my color and where I’m from.”


“At Girls Who Code, I believe the most surprising thing to me was the information I would gain related to computer programming, and the people I would meet. You learn more than coding; you learn life skills, how to network with people that you meet, and how to present yourself in a professional manner. Attending Girls Who Code may be one of the best ways to spend a summer, because you are learning things you will use forever.”


“I think I learned the most from Dr. Phyllis Schneck. While touring the NCICC/DHS I learned she and her team do a lot more than just look for malicious terrorists. They also monitor domestic problems such as electricity in a city or water supply. They use weather and information gathered from outer space to alert citizens of “normal” problems. I realize that her work impacts us daily and I don’t think everyone knows that. We take their work for granted and it should be known.”


“Because of Girls Who Code, I now have the skills to program almost anything I want. I have basic skills that I can use as a platform to learn new things on the internet. I believe that now I can program any website, app, or robot that I want. I don’t think I’m quite proficient enough to create convincing computer animation, but I can certainly learn more, and I’m eager to do so.”


“My mom works for the government and when she talks about it, it seems very slow and boring (maybe that’s just her job, who knows!) so I thought I knew I didn’t want to work in the government. But every single one of the women talked about how much they loved working in it because they never knew exactly what was coming and there were always new and fun things to work on! I definitely think I want to get some job experience outside of the government first, just to see what I do and don’t like, but I think later on in my life I would like to work there.”

11138144_10153309125839191_2598970155019536869_n (1)

“I now have an extremely strong base in programming and I feel like there’s a lot that I could do. I am, by no means, completely versed in everything I’ve learned so far or computer science in general but I now know how to go about solving programming problems and learning more. In short, Girls Who Code gave me a solid base that I can continue to build upon for the rest of my life.”

11902229_10153309127209191_4602057356544189729_n (1)

3-D Software Helping Us Understand Our Past

posted by in Industry August 3, 2015
Aug 03

In my job, I see what software lets people accomplish every day. With software, people are transforming the present, and pushing the boundaries of current limitations further and further out.  People are using software to shape the future in many ways, from using software to save the lives of more premature babies and infants in places without electricity, to helping NASA study Mars.

But I am intrigued to see an example of software also being used to help us understand the past.

Recently, researchers in Virginia’s Jamestown, established in 1607, found four undiscovered burial sites of early settlers. This discovery gave us valuable new information about early colonists and life in what was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

While this announcement made headlines on newspapers and TV, those stories were only partially told, using two-dimensional images.  For the “inner archaeologist” in many of us, there was much more to experience on the Smithsonian Institution’s website – a three-dimensional rendering of the burial site, available for all to view and explore.

To achieve this, Autodesk and the Smithsonian partnered to build the Smithsonian X 3D Explorer – a tool built exclusively to digitally showcase the Smithsonian’s most prized exhibits. Through the ingenuity of Autodesk’s software and the vision of the people who created it, the researchers’ work can be more fully viewed and understood by us all.  People with an interest in early American history can experience an incredible 360-degree view of this amazing, new finding that gives even more clues into what life was like at Jamestown four centuries ago.

Our ability to use software to offer unprecedented digital access to historical findings is just one of the ways software is making learning and history reach far beyond the classroom. It’s inspiring to see researchers use software innovation to help us understand our past, as well as look toward our future. In the case of the groundbreaking 3-D Jamestown rendering, companies like Autodesk are helping future explorers develop a passion for learning and for seeing in different, entirely new ways – and providing us all with a way to better connect with our own history.

From uncovering the past to exploring the future, amazing things are happening every day with software.

Effective Information Sharing Legislation Needed to Combat Cyber Attacks

posted by in Cybersecurity July 22, 2015
Jul 22

It’s not hard today to find news accounts of how America’s digital networks are under siege.  Cyber criminals are at work, hoping to extract valuable data from consumers, businesses, and government organizations and to shut down or disrupt our critical infrastructure. One way to combat these attacks is allowing businesses and the government to share information about possible cyber threats in order to more effectively respond.  Unfortunately, current legal barriers discourage collaboration, putting more consumer data and our most critical infrastructure in harm’s way.

To spur action on this front, I sent a letter on behalf of BSA | The Software Alliance to Senate leadership, encouraging them to take up cyber threat information sharing legislation that will help both businesses and government combat cyber threats.

Accepting Director Comey’s Call for a Public Debate on Encryption

posted by in Cybersecurity, Privacy July 8, 2015
Jul 08

FBI Director James Comey published a column on July 6, 2015, calling for a robust public debate about the benefits and costs of strong encryption that protects users’ privacy and overall network security. I join Director Comey in that call.

The law enforcement community has raised legitimate concerns about their ability to access information stored electronically.  Our member companies are fully committed to the important mission of law enforcement in keeping Americans safe and investigating criminal activity, and stand ready to do their part. But companies need both clarity about their obligations and the freedom to innovate to meet users’ demands. And we need to ensure that responsibilities imposed on technology companies do not endanger the security of our users’ information, or endanger network security more broadly.

The State of Cybersecurity in APAC

posted by in Cybersecurity June 30, 2015
Jun 30

News of cyber attacks dominate today’s headlines. No country is safe from malicious cyber actors. In a world where cyber threats are constant, it is important to understand both how governments are addressing cybersecurity challenges and steps they can take to do better.

Today, BSA | The Software Alliance released its first Asia-Pacific (APAC) Cybersecurity Dashboard, an in-depth study of 10 APAC markets and their approaches to cybersecurity. Our goal is to inspire government leaders in each market to prioritize cybersecurity as an issue of national importance. This APAC Dashboard  is a companion to the European Union Cybersecurity Dashboard, released by BSA earlier this year.

The Dashboard’s findings are clear: the 10 markets examined in APAC have been slow to produce comprehensive national cybersecurity strategies and implement the legal frameworks needed for security and critical infrastructure protection. Yet there are tremendous opportunities to improve the systems needed to protect against, prevent, mitigate, and respond to cyber attacks.  Doing so will bolster enterprise, government, and consumer confidence in cutting edge Internet-enabled technologies and services, driving economic growth and productivity, and will reduce the costs and risks associated with growing cyber threats.